The Chronic Disease Coalition and numerous other groups advocating for Americans’ health-care needs today submitted a joint letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in response to a proposal that could limit patients’ abilities to use charitable premium assistance programs, ultimately threatening many people’s access to the care they need.
In its Aug. 23 request for information, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) questioned whether some health-care providers are steering people away from Medicare and Medicaid; however, it did not examine the activities of health insurance companies and their efforts to reject coverage for high-cost and fragile populations, a move that would harm thousands of patients with chronic illnesses.
While CMS’ initial inquiry targets kidney dialysis providers, concerned patient organizations say that allowing insurance carriers to limit choice based on a specific health condition presents a slippery slope that could ultimately extend to patients beyond those with end-stage renal disease.
“While the current focus is on charitable premium assistance supporting kidney patients, many others rely on financial aid to help cover the cost of their premiums or co-pays,” their letter states. “Patients needing treatment for bleeding disorders and hemophilia, cancer, psoriasis, diabetes, arthritis and many more chronic conditions are among those looking to charitable assistance programs to help pay related health-care costs.”
Groups signing onto the letter include the Chronic Disease Coalition, the Women’s Bleeding Disorder Coalition, Cascade AIDS Project, Idaho Parkinson’s Action Network, Familias en Accion, Good Days (formerly the Chronic Disease Fund) and Advocates for the Elderly Inc., demonstrating the widespread support for protecting patients’ access to charitable premium assistance programs.
“By prohibiting charitable premium assistance, the insurance industry will place the burden of lifesaving interventions on the few who could afford the treatments,” they wrote. “A patient’s need for charitable assistance shouldn’t disqualify them from having a choice in their health insurance. As CMS looks to fix the Affordable Care Act, we urge you to avoid harming the millions of Americans with chronic diseases.”
The letter comes on the last day of the official comment period offered by CMS. During this time, hundreds of chronic disease patients protested the idea that CMS would allow insurance companies to prohibit patients’ access to charitable premium assistance programs.
From a man fighting cancer in Alabama, to an Alaska resident with chronic myeloid leukemia, to a leukemia patient living on a fixed income in Florida, to a diabetes patient in Oregon, to a Virginia family dealing with hemophilia, many people spoke out in favor of charitable assistance programs.
“Without the help of nonprofit patient assistance organizations, Americans like me would live in fear of losing our jobs, our homes, and our lives,” wrote leukemia patient Wayne Rentschler in a comment submitted to CMS. “Without access to patient assistance, my family faces economic hardship due to health care costs that far exceed a reasonable portion of the family income. Please ensure access to these donations in order to keep my family from potential economic ruin.”
To read the full letter, click here.